Offbeat: Southern Comfort

LA Weekly, January 29 - February 4, 1999
� Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Weekly

Here at OffBeat we have taken a keen interest in Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s ties to the white-supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens. So imagine our surprise when we found a homegrown link to the Southern extremist group in the person of archconservative L.A. Times editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez. As Ramirez acknowledged in an excellent January 26 Times article on Lott’s connections, he spoke to the council about five years ago, during his pre-Times gig at the Memphis Commercial Appeal. Both OffBeat and Ramirez, it turns out, find the 37-year-old Pulitzer winner’s appearance the more puzzling because, as the son of an Asian-American mother and a Latino father, he is a member of ethnic groups that the council trashes. The council warns on its Web site that immigrants are "bringing their inferior cultures." Other council spewings suggest divvying up the nation by race.

Reached at his Times office Wednesday, Ramirez said he had no idea of the extremist views of the group when he spoke. But he has few regrets. "Nobody wants bad publicity, but if this group is what they make it out to be, it was probably good somebody from my ethnic background told them what for," said Ramirez. "If Ted Kennedy and the Kennedy family asked me to speak at their family reunion, I’d probably accept their invitation, that doesn’t mean I endorse any of the political philosophy." The message of his speech, which he has been giving for the last seven years, is anti-racist, Ramirez continued, quoting in part: "We are at the abyss of racial separatism, and it portrays a harrowing threat to the unit of our country." Of course, to say that the biggest racial threat in the U.S. is ethnic balkanization is not the same as challenging white racism. And Lott also defends himself by saying he didn’t know the council’s views — a claim that the Times’ sources poked full of holes in last week’s article.